Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Fat Loss Adventure

I've never been one to attempt to lose weight until recently. It was all about lifting hard, eating, and attempting to gain weight. At 48, I now realize I am not immune to accumulating body fat like any other human being. I'm not as active as in the past, I eat when I'm hungry, and have strayed from a sensible diet to one that consists of many "zero nutritional value" foods (i.e., processed, white flour, high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, etc.). I do eat some fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein, but it was the increase of the aforementioned foods that lead to my "mini-gut." Bottom line: I slowly developed that gut that started getting in the way of putting my socks on in the morning.

Since early December, my scale weight has dropped from 194 to 182. And when I do the pinch test, it's definitely decreased. Here's what I have done and my experiences in the last 5 weeks:

1. I'm eating fewer calories, smaller portions, and making better choices (i.e., carrot sticks over Rice Krispie Treat).

2. Limited intake of white flour products and processed food. A chicken breast and mixed vegetables is it. Before it was that plus non-whole grain pasta and sauce.

3. Water over soda. I've always been a skim milk guy, too.

4. When I get hungry between meals, I fight the urge to eat. I have to tap into that chunk on my stomach.

5. When it is time for one of the three traditional meals of the day (B-L-D), eat, but don't over-eat.

6. No late-night feeding sessions (nothing after 8:00 p.m.)

7. NO CARDIO!! Not that I'm against it, just that I can't run (knee) and loathe standing on treadmill or elliptical trainer. Lesson: you don't have to go on a 45 minute run or 1 hour stationary bike ride to lose fat. Lift in circuit style if you want to huff and puff and get the heart rate up.

8. I have been strength training every other day, six days/week, alternating between upper and lower body. Muscle is metabolically expensive and "wants to go" in the wake of reduced calories, so I attempt to keep it there. However...

9. Interestingly, I have lost some strength in the process. It's due to a combination of my lower calorie intake and being under-recovered due to my lifting frequency (I'll experiment with a normal lifting frequency {2-3 days/week} as time moves forward but right now I want to "be active" more often since I'm not doing the cardio). It's a double edged sword: want to get bigger and stronger? Eat more and lift hard. Want to lose weight? Eat less and exercise more. – Tom Kelso, Strength Coach

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Consistency of Exercise

Often we talk about the importance of staying consist with an exercise plan in order to make it as effective as possible. For the most part, that is true. One must exercise on a routine basis, 2-3 times each week, in order to receive a desirable level of fitness. An important point that is commonly overlooked is the importance of staying consistent with the exercises within an exercise program. Too many times the exerciser changes exercise modalities and never receive the maximum benefit from any one movement. A common example could be: during workout one the individual performs the bench press, to strengthen the muscles of the chest and shoulders, the next workout the push-ups is performed, the following workout the bodyweight dip is performed and the forth workout the dumbbell bench press is used. For the most part all of these exercises stimulate the same body area and therefore are equally effective for developing strength and stamina; however, each one has a unique learning curve which must be acquired before optimum muscular strength gains occur. What I mean by that is each exercise has a specific technique which must be learned and mastered before meaningful resistance can be used, and strength levels increased. As a general rule this takes about 8-10 workouts to occur. During this time you will notice a gradual increase in repetitions performed and weight lifted, this is mostly due to the brain and nervous system becoming efficient at the movement.

Now, a common issue among many fitness enthusiasts is the fact that boredom sets in very quickly when a workout is performed over and over for a period of time. I agree workouts should provide a variety of stimulus while still challenging the body. What I recommend in this case is to choose 10 exercises that address the entire body, lets say: leg press, db chest press, machine lat pulldown, barbell overhead press, barbell curl, leg curl, ab crunch, low back extension, db lateral raise, wrist flexion. For the next 10 workouts you will perform these 10 exercises in the same fashion each time. Change the order of exercises each time; make it as varied as you wish but work hard on all exercises.

What will happen is since the exercises themselves are not changing the brain and nervous system will adapt to the technique or the exercise and become efficient at the movement; however, the overall stress on the body will be ever changing as well as provide a great deal of variety. - Doug Scott, Strength Coach

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Breath of Fresh Air

About 2 weeks ago I took a long walk with my dog through a local park and I was glad to see there was a lot of activity going on. This was in part due to the mild temperatures we've been experiencing here on the east coast. People were out jogging, roller blading, power walking and kids were just running around, you could feel the energy from all the activity.

Well, it's finally starting to get a little colder and this is the time of year when people fall in to their sedentary state - a hibernation of sorts. They get a bit lazy and find excuses for blowing off exercise, they become less motivated, usually because they can hide behind a thick sweater or over sized sweatshirt add really start packing on the extra LB's. LB's - you know, POUNDS! Well, your health and fitness isn't a part time gig and just because it's cold outside doesn't mean it's okay to take a pass on doing some form of exericse.

OK, some of you are going to think I'm a bit nuts or even a little weird, but those who know me already know that, so for you others this may come as a little shock. I own and operate my own training facility in Asbury Park, NJ and have access to some of the best equipment in the industry but prefer to train outside with sand bags and my stone that I had made. In fact, just the other morning at 6AM I was outside on my front porch working out and at the start of my training session it started to snow. It was very invigorating - physically, mentally, spiritually. The peacefulness of the morning, the crispness of the air (which by the way makes it a bit more challenging to breathe in) and the personal satisfaction of completing a workout was and is extremely rewarding.

All I'm trying to do here is encourage you to get outside and not use the weather, time of year or "I can't get to the gym" excuse. Find time - make time.

Here is a chapter that I wrote for a project called GET FIT NJ! It is entitled "Exercising Outdoors - An Informal Approach to Fitness". Please take the time to read it and pass it along to others that you feel may benefit. - Fred Fornicola, Premiere Personal Fitness

Friday, January 19, 2007

Why Complicate Exercise?

Too often in today’s fitness world there is an overabundance of misleading information that seems to create more havoc than providing solutions. Having to stay on top of the latest fads and trends is a full time job – one that I do not subscribe to and never will since I see no reason. The need to find what is “best” or “optimal” becomes the focus of many trainers and trainees alike – usually causing one to lose sight of what is truly important – which is health. The fact that using basic exercises, doing some recreational/cardiovascular activity and eating good wholesome food performed on a routine basis have been a mainstay for hundreds of years. Surprisingly there are some that still vehemently oppose that concept. Not outwardly of course (well, in some cases maybe) but they do so through overly complicated methods and “scientific research”. There seems to be a need to create a “new and improved” approach that will catapult fitness to the next level. In my mind, this begs the question of why? Why complicate the uncomplicated. Is it because they truly feel they have discovered a “new” approach or are they out for the money or just bored and feel the need to stir the pot? Hey, there’s nothing wrong with trying to improve on things but don’t sit there thinking for one minute that you’ll get anywhere trying to put a square object in a round hole.

Fred Fornicola
Premiere Personal Fitness

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dumbbell Training

Just a quick update on Matt Brzycki's and my book "Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness".

First, Matt and I would like to thank all of those who purchased the book. Secondly, we are happy to announce that the book has been received very well - so much so that our distributor just told us that we are sold out (3,000 copies in 7 month's) so we OK'd a second printing to be done immediately.

For those interested in getting a copy, you can check your local Barnes and Noble or order from Amazon.com

If anyone wants a sneak peak you can visit my website, Premiere Personal Fitness.

Again, thank you very much for your support - it is greatly appreciated.

Fred Fornicola
Premiere Personal Fitness

Monday, January 15, 2007

Workout of the Week #2

We will be trying to post a "Workout of the Week" each week to share some of the programs we use for ourselves personally as well as for our trainees. Feel free to substitute exercises to your needs and/or availability so if an exercise calls for shoulder presses feel free to use a machine, dumbbells, barbell, sand bag, anvil, stone, whatever jazzes you. Repetition ranges are for example only. If you prefer higher reps, do them but regardless of the repetition range always try to exceed your goals and don't stop the set just because you achieved a number - keep going past your goal number if possible.

Db hammer curl
Db standing overhead press
Chin-up or layback row
Db lunges

- Doug Scott, Strength Coach

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What The Experts Say

I am always amazed when I am in a book store and see the amount of books written on “how to improve ones fitness.” Whether the book is written with the intent of making the reader a better athlete, as in the case of many strength training for sports books, or simply looking better as with the “look great in 8 weeks” books. In any case all of these books have two things is common. First off they all start with a standard release of liability; you know the line, “be sure you see a doctor before starting any exercise program.” In addition they all offer the hope that this book is the missing link in your quest for improved physical fitness. In Fact many guarantee success.

The first statement I won’t comment on since I also think everyone should receive a doctor’s clearance before starting an exercise program. The second comment however, I take issue with. Mainly because there are no guarantees in life and an exercise program is no different. In addition, there is no way the author, regardless of his/her credentials, can prescribe a detailed fitness plan for an individual they never met. Offer general guidelines, yes, but offer a detailed week by week workout plan is not possible. In fact many of these “guides” often leave the reader frustrated with exercise all together after the plan does not live up to claims.

The truth of the matter is many people turn to these books for guidance on how to better their lives through exercise. I think that’s great so many people what to become more physically fit. However, the answer is not in any book. Finding out what is best for you, in terms of exercise, can only be learned by doing. If you want to improve you fitness, than stop reading about a new routine and start moving with the routine you currently are on. If you want to read a book pick up a Gray’s Anatomy text and learn how the body functions and choose exercises accordingly. If your goal is become a stronger person than experiment with different exercises, set and rep combinations and notate which ones you like better, than strive to improve on each exercise. Improving your physical fitness is very simple, and you don’t need to read 300 page book to get the answer.

*Get doctor’s clearance
*Identify what you need to work on (muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility etc.)
*Pick exercises you enjoy doing to address these needs
*Stay consistent with your plan for 3-5 days a week
*Be patient and stay the course.

- Doug Scott, Strength Coach

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The HIGH PERFORMANCE TRAINING discussion board has been re-opened for intelligent discussions on safe, efficient and effective training for health and fitness.

Feel free to register. - Fred Fornicola

Monday, January 08, 2007

Romancing the Stone

You may have seen these guys on TV before, you know those big behemoths (and I mean that in a good way fellas) known as Strongmen who pull trolley cars, lift those huge log bars over their heads, carry heavy implements in their hands (known as the farmers walk) and lift those huge stones. Well, you don't have to be that big or that strong to perform the exercises that they do but can definitely benefit from what those exercises provide as far as building strength and fitness.

Here's a perfect example of what I mean. I was looking to get a stone and Dr. Ken Leistner recommended I get in touch with a gentleman named Steve Slater of Slaters Hardware . Steve is a strongman competitor himself and was able very helpful in helping me decide which stone I should purchase. I ended up buying the lightest stone he made which weighed in at 39 pounds and 10" in diameter. I bought this particular stone so I and my clients could have even more diversity in our training, but more importantly I want to make sure that I can implement the use of this modality safely and effectively. I can see this stone being very addicting because it has so much versatility and is pretty challenging. This size stone is great to do deadlifts, (controlled) cleans to the shoulder, overhead pressing (1 arm or 2), hammer and regular curls along with stiff leg deadlifts, squats and other compound movements. Now the 39 pound ball is far from being a stones throw away (pun intended) from what these and other guys use for competition and recreation but it is still a very valuable tool and should be used more often to build strength and tax the cardiovascular system.

Here is a workout that involves only using the stone. Use 1 set of an all out effort with each exercise and take no longer than 60 seconds between movements.

Standing overhead press
Squat holding the stone at chest height
Stiff leg deadlift
Hammer curl
Stone lift to shoulder - alternating sides for each rep

This workout may take 15-20 minutes to complete. You will have worked every major muscle group in your body directly and indirectly and will certainly elevate your heart rate if you are giving 100 percent effort on each exercise and take little rest between movements. As time progresses I will try to update what new and exciting ways I have come up with to use the stone.

To reach Steve Slater email him at sslater1@columbus.rr.com

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Second "5 Hard & Fast Rules of Strength Training"

see the December 11, 2006 installment for the "First 5 Hard & Fast Rules"

6. Use a reasonable volume of training.
As mentioned in point number 4 above, there is no need to perform a high volume of exercises per session. This holds true for exercise sets. A 1 to 3 sets/exercise protocol is within reason and should be the guiding rule to create muscle overload. It’s effective, time-efficient, and also facilitates recovery because the body doesn’t have to deal with unnecessary stress bouts and energy depletion. Similarly, very intense training sessions require a few days to fully recover from, therefore two to three sessions per week should be the limit. If more people trained harder and took an extra day of recovery between these more intense sessions, there would be more muscle visible in the world.

7. Vary the number of repetitions.
Proper strength training should involve significant resistance to recruit and fatigue targeted muscle fibers. It is not advisable to perform hundreds of repetitions in an exercise set as the resistance needed for this would be too light and inadequate for creating muscle tension and overload. Because research is mixed on the exact number of repetitions needed for specific types of development (i.e., maximum strength, quick strength [explosion], increased muscle size, and extended force output [muscular endurance]), a wide range of repetitions can be used. A reasonable range of repetitions would be from four to twenty five, used systematically to enhance muscle capacity
over the course of individual training period segments and the training year.

8. Vary exercises and workout day formats.
Proper strength training can be a grind due to its stressful nature, therefore to add variety to training, rotate exercises between workouts and alter the workout day formats throughout the training year. Examples: leg presses for workout A, barbell or machine squats for workout B, and dead lifts for workout C. Wide grip pulldowns for the upper back on workout 1, chin ups on workout 2, and close grip pulldowns on workout 3. Train ten weeks doing total body on Monday, upper body on Thursday, and lower body on Friday. For the next 8 weeks, switch to a total body workout every fourth day. Bottom line: use a variety of exercises and training day formats, but maintain consistency and progression.

9. Use sensible nutritional intake.
The good ole days of recommending fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins, complex carbohydrates, and adequate hydration seem to have been be lost as there are a gazillion ergogenic aids and supplements are on the market. All are purported to enhance some elusive quality, namely increased muscle mass, strength, energy and/or leanness. They cost money, but so do trips to the local supermarket to obtain regular food products which we all have to do anyway. No one wants to hear this because it’s boring, but if a person eats sensibly – that is, eats balanced meals derived from the four food groups obtainable at the supermarket and gets enough calories to support whatever is desired (i.e., weight gain, loss, maintenance) -- that in itself should be sufficient to reach their goal.

10. Accept your body type and genetic limitations.
Last but not least is the genetic issue. I saved this for the end purposely as it is the greatest reality check of them all: you’re stuck with your body type and genetic endowment no matter how much you wish it could change. Thirty years ago I was ’-9”, weighed approximately 155 to 160 pounds, and could maybe do 185 pounds for 10 repetitions in the bench press before I started serious strength training. Fifteen years ago, I was 5’-9”, weighed approximately 193 to 197 pounds, and could do 225 pounds for 9 repetitions in the bench press due to hard, consistent, and progressive training. Currently, I’m 5’-9”, weigh approximately 185 to 190 pounds, and can do 225 pounds for 6 repetitions due to the fact I’m 47 years old and trying to hang on to continued consistent, progressive training. I hate to admit it, but I’m on the down- side. My shoulder bone/ligament structure isn’t going to change, I’m stuck with a 5’- 9” frame, but my body composition and strength levels can vary depending on how I
train. My point is you’re not going to make any major transformations in your
strength and physique once you make the initial commitment and tap into your genetic potential. The key is to accept what you have and train intelligently within its confines. - Tom Kelso, Strength Coach, SLU

Monday, January 01, 2007

Investment Strategy for a Healthier Lifestyle

How much is good health worth? How much would you pay to stay healthy? Would you do anything that would sacrifice you health? These are questions I ask my clients during our initial evaluation before we start training. Almost everyone has the same response, “my heath is a top priority” or “staying healthy is priceless”. Of course, most people would not do anything to intentionally sacrifice their physical health but many do due to the lack of exercise, which of course is not helping matters any.

Now here is where I start to get concerned. When I ask if staying healthy is so important, why has it been so long since you last exercised? The common responses are, “I don’t have enough time”, “work has been hectic lately”, “I mean to exercise but something else always seems to come up”. I’m not saying that commitments such as work, family and social obligations should be shunned; however taking the time to exercise is a great step in continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle. This is not anything new or revolutionary.

A majority of people would tend to agree that staying physically fit is extremely beneficial in promoting good health. The fitness boom of the seventies and eighties did a wonderful job of promoting and establishing the long-term benefits of leading an active lifestyle. The next hurdle we face as fitness enthusiasts is the public’s persona on how much time is needed to become and stay fit. Let’s face it, we live in a time-starved society, where “there never seems to be enough time to get anything done”. Walk around any office building and you will hear sayings like this all the time. Compound that with the exercise protocols that state, for improved health one has to perform cardiovascular exercise 3-5 days a week for 20-60 minutes in addition to strength training 2-3 times a week with multiple sets in order to keep the muscles and joints strong. If you were to add up all that fitness activity that is “required” to stay healthy, it would be between 3-5 hours a week or 100-200 hours a year! With that kind of time commitment required no wonder people can’t find the time to exercise. So, the common misconception is if an individual can’t commit to exercising at least 3 days a week for an hour than they can’t be fit. This is simply not true!

Studies, as well as personal application for myself and my clients, have shown that resistance training 3 times per week using one set to muscular fatigue will increase strength and cardiovascular benefits. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but for many 3 times a week is still a large time commitment. It was never stated or proven that 10-12 exercises performed 3 times a week was the “secret” to improving fitness, but working hard with a high level of intensity or effort is, so what if rather than 10 exercises to address the entire major muscle structures the volume was limited to only 5-7 total sets performed twice a week? Based on the overload principle, as long as the exercises are made progressively more challenging, then the body will adapt and become stronger, regardless of the volume. The exercise selection could be as follows:

Multi joint leg exercise (squat, leg press, deadlift, lunge)

Multi joint pushing exercise (chest press, overhead press, dips, push-ups),

Multi joint pulling movement (chin-ups, lat pulldown, seated row)

Round out the program with an abdominal and a lower back exercise and either grip/neck or calf work.

All exercises are done with a high level of intensity (until no more repetitions can be performed with good technique). The time between exercises should be minimized (20-40 seconds) so that the heart rate can stay elevated. This adjustment in volume and frequency will reduce the amount of time invested from 4 hours a week (208 hours a year with traditional guidelines) to 1 hour (or less) per week (roughly 52 hours a year). This reduction in the amount of time needed to become physically fit should have a great impact on how people view exercise and hopefully lead to another “fitness boom.” I am not saying this is THE best method of exercising for everyone; some may enjoy performing more activity and that’s fine; the main goal is realizing the benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle and making time to pursue it.

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola